The Trauma Recovery Institute

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TRAUMA, REPRESSION & REENACTMENTS

This psychological phenomenon is a much-talked about and argued subject particularly in psychoanalysis. Repression in its own right deserves an entire article in itself and so in this article I just touch on it. For the purpose of this article, Repression and dissociation are explained as adaptive protective defensive strategies. Repression is when we dissociate from feeling states as a child due to the difficult nature of the feelings and experiences and feel unable to process them due to the non supportive environment or indeed abusive environment in which the feelings arise from and within. These feelings are overwhelming for the child and become repressed which then resurface in adult relationships and experiences as reenactments.
A very significant case of repression in childhood and trauma reenactment in adulthood with devastating consequences is the atrocities carried out by Hitler. Alice Miller has presented convincing evidence that Hitler was physically and emotionally abused as a child. His father was, in every sense, a totalitarian dictator. Some historians conjecture that Hitler’s father was half-Jewish and illegitimate and acted out his rage on his children. Some believe that Hitler was reenacting his own childhood, using millions of innocent Jews as his scapegoats. 
But Hitler could never have done this alone. What seems beyond all human logic is the fact that one madman could corrupt an entire elitist nation like Germany. 
Erik Erikson has suggested that Hitler mobilized the dissociated rage of German adolescents. He was an adolescent gang leader who came as a brother and offered a matrix that institutionalized their rage. This rage was their unconscious response to their cruel upbringing and was neatly denied in the myth of the “master race.” The scapegoated Jews represented the victimized part of themselves as they identified with their aggressive totalitarian parent. This national “acting out” was the logical result of an authoritarian family life in which one or two persons, the parents, have all the power and can whip, scold, punish, humiliate, manipulate, abuse or neglect their children-all under the banner of parenting and pedagogy.
An understanding of this is crucial in working with the various and often-destructive expressions of trauma reenactments with a client both in therapy and in the client’s life, which is being explored in therapy. Another example of this from my own practice and that of fellow practitioners and clinicians is the client who regularly uses sexual partners or sex workers in promiscuous and often sadist and masochistic ways as a method of reenacting their original childhood sexual abuse. In this exchange they now have a sense of being in control, where as a child they feel completely out of control and helpless. When exploring sexual fantasies, sexual acting out or other non-nurturing sexual behaviour with a client, it is useful for us to explore the possibility of a parallel dynamic or feeling state from a previous relationship. These reenactments throughout our life are extremely myelinated experiences in our brain and form patterns of neuronal activity where we actually seek out these familiar representative people, situations and / or affective states until we bring awareness to this and break the patterns through new healthy relating building new neuronal networks. This can be the work of good therapy and of course good tantric experiences particularly intimacy work.
 

“The results of any traumatic experience, such as abuse, can only be resolved by experiencing, articulating, and judging every facet of the original experience within a process of careful therapeutic disclosure.”
Alice Miller

 
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